In the early morning of May 31, 2010, Israeli security forces attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which was sailing for the Gaza Strip, in international waters.
The flotilla was sailing to the Gaza Strip, which is blockaded by Israel, in order to deliver humanitarian aid, on board the flotilla were civilians, including among them activists, journalists and politicians. It has now become clear that at least 9 civilians have died, and approximately 30 injured as a result of the attack by Israeli commandos on the boats of the flotilla.
Human Rights Now (HRN), a Tokyo-based international human rights NGO, strongly condemns the attack of Israeli military, which resulted in the loss of precious lives.
The Israeli military attacked the civilians with guns, and used weapons to attack them, causing injury and deaths. It is clear that attacking and killing non-combatants is a grave violation of international law. Even if, as Israel claims, civilians had displayed resistance with the use of bats, it would never be acceptable to attack and kill civilians since it breaches the principle of proportionality. Further, Israel's act of attacking civilians, based on the mere suspicion that terrorists might be on board, is a violation of the principles of international humanitarian law.
The blockade which Israel has imposed on Gaza for more than three years has severely limited the flow of basic commodities and reconstruction materials into Gaza. As a result, the people of Gaza live in poverty and Gaza itself has fallen into a situation of extreme humanitarian crisis. The flotilla planned to deliver precisely the goods which would aid the people of Gaza.
Israel's blockade amounts to "collective punishment" which is prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The international community has repeatedly requested that Israel lift the blockade, however, Israel has completely ignored these requests. Further, Israel, as an occupying power, has the obligations under articles 55 and 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to ensure the distribution of food and medical supplies for the occupied population and to allow the free passage of humanitarian aid for civilians. While Israel has clearly failed to carry out its obligations under the Geneva Conventions, it is also clear that Israel's act of killing civilians on board the flotilla, who were attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, is unacceptable under international law.
HRN emphasizes that a situation of impunity must not be allowed to exist in cases of grave human rights violations, such as this one.
International investigations which are independent, transparent, and impartial should be carried out without delay, and those responsible must be punished appropriately. The Israeli government must be held completely accountable for this matter. On 1 June 2010, the U.N. Security Council released a statement regarding this case. The statement calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards. (S/PRST/2010/9) On 2 June 2010, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution in which it resolved to dispatch an independent, international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international humanitarian law concerning the Israeli attacks. (A/HRC/14/L.1) The U.N. Secretary General supported the decision to carry out these investigations.
However, Israel stands firm in its rejection of international investigations and plans to conduct its own investigations. However, it seems unlikely that the independence and impartiality of such investigations can be ensured.
Israel has failed to pursue those responsible for the deaths of numerous citizens during the Gaza conflict which lasted from December 2008 to January 2009. In spite of the recommendations made by the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict, the Goldstone Mission, Israel has not conducted credible investigations and has denied all responsibility of war crimes.
If a situation of impunity continues to exist, in spite of the endless human rights violations and the deprivation of people's llives, human rights violations will continue to reoccur.
HRN strongly calls on the Israeli government to:
• Disclose all the information regarding this case;
• Accept and fully cooperate with independent international fact-finding missions, and fulfill its accountability, with the view to reveal fact situations and responsibility for the human rights violations;
• Release all members of the flotilla who are still detained; and
• Immediately lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
HRN also calls on the international community to
• Establish an independent and impartial international mission to investigate this case with concerted efforts and strongly call on Israel to accept it; and
• Strongly encourage Israel to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip, which is ina state of humanitarian crisis, immediately.
The Japanese government abstained from a vote on the resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council on 2 June 2010, even though it called for a thorough international investigation in the talk at the U.N. Security Council on 1 June 2010. HRN expresses deep concern about Japan's ambiguous policy and calls for Japan to take an initiative to bring the truth of this human rights problem to light.